Lecture 10, 1985 – 1991
So last week we looked at the gradual move away from détente between the United States and the Soviet Union as the 1970s moved onwards. This was caused by the fall from grace of Richard Nixon, along with right and left wing critiques of the détente policy. In addition American policy makers looked with irritation at Soviet moves in the third world which seemed to disprove détente. The Soviet war in Afhghanistan ended détente and 1980-1985 saw a renewed cold war with tension over arms once more, increasingly aggressive language from Ronald Reagan and the weakening of the Soviet Union through a succession of old and infirm leaders, a weak economy and social movements like Solidarity in Poland. In 1985 however Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union, a young, dynamic leader he attempted to reform the country which was economically and politically suffering, with his combined policies of Glasnost (openness) and perestroika (rebuilding). In the field of foreign policy Gorbachev took the initiative and pushed for an end to the Cold War, arms reductions and co-operation with the West. Gorbachev aimed to reform but his policies started a chain of events which led to the end of the Cold War when Communist countries in Eastern Europe fell in 1989 and eventually the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. We are going to look at the events which brought about the end of the Cold War.
First of all we’re going to look at the initial impact of Gorbachev when he came to power in 1985, what were his policies at home and abroad and why were they so different to what had gone before? We will then move on to how his policies played out on the international stage, with initial uncertain relations as Reagan and Gorbachev sought to work out the other’s aims, to the success of the INF treaty of 1987 where the US and USSR agreed to a degree of arms reduction. We will then move on to the Soviet retreat in the third world, firstly regarding the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan to a generally peaceful position in Africa and in South-East Asia. We will then look at renewed initial suspicion between the new US president George Bush senior in 1989 and Gorbachev which turned into Bush’s support for the younger man. We will then look at the moves which finally ended the cold war – the removal of communist regimes in Eastern Europe, the reunification of Germany and the End of the Soviet Union in 1991. At the end I will offer some explanations regarding the End of the Cold War and some conclusions.
Ok so first let’s have a look at the impact that Gorbachev made at home and abroad when he succeeded Konstantin Chernenko in March 1985. Gorbachev was to be the last Soviet leader but no-one would have expected it when he came to power.
Gorbachev was very young compared to the previous general secretaries – he was 54 when he came to power. Part of a body of USSR opinion determined to break from the stagnation of the Brezhnev era, look at economic and political problems in the country, corruption – over centralised planning. In addition he sought to adopt a less doctrinal foreign policy, less ideological . Caution at first, discussions about openness and technological innovation.
Glasnost and perestroika from the early days of his reign (openness and restructuring) – aime tto reform communism, make it work better. Organizational changes and better incentives for workers initially, replacement of leading officials in February 1986, freeing of dissidents, increased respect for human rights. Pace of reform moves quicker in 1987 – limited use of elections at a local level, alternatives to communism, nationalism begins to stir in the Soviet Union. Soviet Union’s gravedigger?
Mixed messages initially regarding foreign policy – Initial announcements regarding nuclear arms control (this was nothing new compared to the Brezhnev era). Continued support of Communist groups in Afghanistan, Cuba, Vietnam and Nicaragua 1985-7.
But in general there was a more determined approach from Gorbachev regarding détente. He sought better relations with the West, initial calls for nuclear disarmament and something akin to peaceful coexistence. Gorbachev and his foreign minister (the moderate Eduard Shevardnadze) believed in a ‘new diplomacy’ ‘ a less confrontational stance towards the outside world would provide greater security than endless rearming’ So the West has someone it can deal with.
‘The new diplomacy’ called for tensions to be lowered on a global scale. This meant pulling back from the successful positions the Soviet Union held in the third world from the 1970s onwards. October 1985 Gorbachev had called for an early withdrawal from Afghanistan. The less developed world, in oposition to Brezhnev, was relatively unimportant to Gorbachev (although he continued to aid movements there). Willing to make concessions in the developing world. Not prepared at all costs to finance left-wing movements there.
Thirdly Gorbachev (and perhaps most crucially) was willing to revise former Soviet positions regarding Eastern Europe. Remember Brezhnev was famous for his doctrine which stated the Soviet Union and other socialist countries would intervene if socialist countries in the bloc moved towards Capitalism.
Gorbachev had a very different attitude. He believed that Eastern Europe was a serious strain on Soviet resources but also that it was an embarassment regarding Soviet dealings with the West. Soviets police the region and provide cheap oil supplies and favourable trade deals.
So his police was the Sinatra doctrine that Eastern European countries could do it ‘their way’ – decide the path they wanted to follow, glasnost and perestroika were to be followed there as well. Striking change.
However important to state that Gorbachev was an idealist – he did not hope for the end of the USSR just wanted it to work better. Seen as a great man in the West as he brought about the end of Communism, in the Soviet Union he was seen as a failure as he didn’t protect its security and his reforms failed
Let’s have a look at some of the key events in the move towards the end of the Cold War. When Gorbachev came to power, he had the reputation of being a reformer. Margaret Thatcher in 1984 stated that he was someone that she could work with. And for a hardline anti-Communist this was quite a statement. This had an important impact on Washington-Moscow relations as she could act as a go between. Reagan in his second term (in stark contrast to his first term) wanted to make his reputation as a peacemaker and lower the dangers of nuclear war. All of these things suggested that relations between East and West had the potential to develop well. Indeed Gorbachev announced a freeze in April 1985 of deployments of Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) in Europe. In August G announces a Moratorium on nuclear testing. In May 1985 Gorbachev and Reagan agreed to meet up for a summit in Geneva in November 1985. September 1985 Shevardnadze proposed halfing both powers nuclear arsenals but this was linked to the issue of Reagan’s SDI nuclear program (Star Wars). G sought that SDI be shelved as there was a clear link between defensive nuclear power and offensive nuclear weapons.
But a relatively friendly environment between G and Reagan in November 1985 in Geneva – nothing really worked out, Reagan offers to share SDI with the Soviets – good working relationship between the two heads of state – Reagan finally feels there is a leader he can talk to, turning point in US-Soviet relations.
Confusion in the White House over G’s policies – throughout 1986 G takes the initiative in foreign policy – January 1986 letter to Reagan, offers to eleminate INF in Europe and all nuclear weapons by the end of the century – this was however linked to SDI – G wanted Reagan to get rid of it. Gorbachev shows he is willing to work with the west – taking the initiative – however Washington won’t budge on the issue of SDI. Agreement in September 1986 that there was going to be a second summit in Rekjavik (interim summit) in October 1986.
At the same time there was continued tension in the US-Soviet relationship
Firstly this regarded the Soviet position in Afghanistan. Gorbachev sought withdrawal as mentioned before, however he did not want it to be seen as a defeat for the USSR. He also wanted to strengthen the position of the Communist Kabul government before leaving and appease hard-line Soviets. 1985-6 G orders Red Army offensives – use of special forces. Laying of mines. High civilian casualties. This pushed the US to fund the Mujahadeen further – 630 million dollars of aifd in 1986. Anti-Aircraft missiles to the Mujahadeen. Continued conflict in the region.
In addition the US continued to show they would intervene in the third world – clash between Gaddafi and Reagan as Gaddafi was very anti-Israeli, supported extremist groups in Palestine, Syria, aligned himself with the Soviets. In April 1986 Libyan agents exploded a bomb in a West Berlin discotheque, killing 3 and injuring 220 people (79 Us servicemen). IN revenge the US bombed Libya. Soviets were annoyed at this (stirring up trouble in the third world). and Sheverdnadze cancelled a trip to Washington in May 1986.
Another sign that there were still issues between the two powers could be seen towards the end of 1986 at Rekjavik in Iceland
Throughout 1986 Gorbachev had linked Soviet disarmament plans to Reagan’s abandonment of SDI. In October 1986 the two leaders met in Iceland. Gorbachev again took the initiative proposed halving their arsenals and the INF treaty as well as making Abm treaty for 10 years instead of five. G would accept even onsite verification if the US would budge over SDI. But Reagan won’t move – conference ends in failure and recrimination. G wants to continue with the hardline and into early 1987 realtions between the two powers strained. Rumours about further SDI deployment. One good thing from Rekjavik – G realises that US will not budge over SDI so G moves towards work on INF away from SDI. Things moving in a positive direction, despite tensions. Scene was set for the end of the cold war.
Still worries about the Soviet Union at the beginning of 1987, it was still a strongly centralised state and people didn’t believe that G would give up the Soviet
Union’s well-earned position of strength. But Gorbachev initated what might be called perestroika mark two in 1987, further and deeper element of reform. Economic reform in early 1988, state enterprises were to be more efficient and making their own business plans, decetralisation. Mid 1988 an element of choice in elections to a Congress of People’s deputies in 1989 – movement against these reforms from Soviet hardliners. Reforms lead to anti-Communist and Nationalist elements in the Soviet Union rising – unravelling of the Soviet system.
In foreign policy from the 1987 continued searching of détente with the West – expansion of Communism worldwide was no longer a priority. Reduction of defence spending and a pulling away from conflict in the Third World. Gorbachev didn’t intend to bring about the fall of the Soviet Union but he didn’t defend its positions very well.
Let’s now look at the INF treaty which was signed in December 1987 between the US and the Soviets. So as I was saying G due to Rekjavik changes his policy regarding SDI, this was less important for the Soviet Leader. This movement for INF to be delinked from SDI meant there was more space for the two leaders to agree. G realised the US would not give up SDI – letter to Reagan January-February 1987. this was immediately seen as a positive thing by Reagan.
Plans to meet up and agree an INF deal. Which would destroy INF weapons and agree to on-site verification. European leaders agreed to some sort of deal in May 1987 (Helmut Kohl of Germany agreed to dispose of West Germany’s Pershing 1A missiles).
Washingto treaty an important landmark – agreed to a number of important things. Firstly it was a concrete return to coexistence and détente – although to the Reagan administration détente was a dirty word.
Secondly reduced tensions in Europe – although some in NATO felt it harmed its deterrance measures. What were the exact agreements at the INF treaty?
1)A real cut in nuclear arsenals not like SALT which only limited nuclear arms production and produced ceilings.
2)Eliminated all INF systems in Europe and Asia – missiles between 500-5,500.
3) Losses of weapons -
4)Agreed on-site verification
5)Still it only affected 6-7% of nuclear arsenals. Stil an important deal.
Aftermath of INF, Washington and Moscow good relations – Summit agreed End of May-Early June 1988 – Reagan and Gorbachev. No real agreements but a very positive environment between the two leaders. Very different from the ‘Empire of Evil’ five years previously.
Gorbachev speaks to the UN late 1988 – first time since K in 1960. Talks of independence, freedom, promises of conventional arms reductions. Marxist-Leninism not an absolute truth. So movement towards the end of the Cold War – not there yet.
Let’s now look at other reasons which showed that G was pushing for an end of the Cold War and proved more and more that the United States could work with him and the Soviet Union
We have seen how Gorbachev’s ultimate aim was to pull Soviet forces out of Afghanistan, however he wanted to support the Commuunists there still, so conflict and tension still existed in the area. G was still preparing for ultimate withdrawal. In May 1986 Gorbachev replaced Babrak Karmal with the more moderate Mohammed Najibullah, who recognised the Communists could not win the war, prepared to reach a settlement with their opponents. Offered a ceasefire, opponents into government and a new constitution agreed in 1987.
1987 saw the Afghanisation of the army – preparations for Soviet departure – in addition there were continued discussion in Geneva between Afghanistan and Pakistan governments regarding a peace deal.
In February 1988 G announced that he aimed to pull out troops by May 1989. This led to a peace agreement being signed in April 1988 in Geneva. Very important agreement – against the wishes of most Soviet politicians and the Afghanistan Communists, even many American figures were not sure of supporting a settlement as they saw the Afghan war as a way to bleed the Soviets dry.
Important agreements – read through the different accords – Important for the Soviets to say to the US that they had changed but some negative elements of it.
4-6 million refugees repatriated 1988-90
US could still supply the Mijahadeen until the Soviets stopped supplying the Afghan communists (which both didn’t do)
2) Soviets basically were not confirming a peace but basically meant Civil war continued – good chance the Communist would lose – this eventually happens in 1992
So the Soviets were showing the West they were not just prepared to co-operate but to go over and above this. But last Soviet troops leave Afghanistan in February 1989 – important move. The classic Soviet war that had undermined détente fatally was thus over. Important obstacle to the end of the Cold War had disappeared. The Soviet also moved to remove tension in other parts of the Cold War – in areas which had provoked tension in the 1970’s and early 1980s.
Firstly let’s have a look at the situation in Africa. The main problem here in the 1980s was the tying of the Civil war in Angola to the situation in neighbouring Namibia. The problem in Namibia was the prevention of independence in the country by SouthAfrican occupation. The UN put pressure on South Africa to deal with SWAPO South West Africa People's Organization who the UN considered the voice of the Namibian people. South Africa supported the UNITA party which fought against the Marxist MPLA in Angolan civil war. Throughout the 1980s the two (Namibia and Angola issues linked).
Soviets fund the Cubans who maintain 40,000 troops in Angola, South Africans and US support Unita in Angola.
By early 1988 G pushes the Cubans to talk to the US and the Angolans – by 1988 SA and Angola government willing to talk.
May 1988 deal Cubans to leave Angola if South Africans left Namibia. South Africans pull troops out of Angola, plan for Cuba to pull out by 1990. Fornal agreement in December 1988.
Namibia becomes independent in 1990, Cuban troops leave Angola. But civil war continues throughout the 1990s in Angola – US support UNITA. But still Soviets prepared to broker deals.
Finally let’s look at Cambodia – We saw in a previous lecture the removal of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia by a Vietnamese force which set up government in the area under Hun Sen. Khmer Rouge still dangerous. Attempts to broker a peace deal in the mid 1980s. By the late 1980s Soviets under G put pressure on the Vietnamese to withdraw to relax tensions between East and West. Vietnam withdrawals in 1987 and 1988. Continued peace talks in 1988 – Soviets put pressure on the Vietnamese and they agree to pull out their troops by September 1989. Ceasefire and a new interim government, repatriation of refugees and foreign aid agreed.
Soviets once more showed they were willing to work with the West
So which way would the relaxation of tensions take next. One potential issue in the relaxation of relations between the two sides, despite Gorbachev’s insistent moves to work with the West was the election of a new US president in January 1989, George Bush senior. Reagan and Gorbachev had worked together very well, what would Bush bring to the table.
Bush was a very different figure to Reagan, Reagan was all about charisma and public relations, Bush was cautious and pragmatic. Was initially critical of Reagan’s anti-Sovietism and his eventual enthusiastic support of Gorbachev. Initial position of Bush to the Soviet Union was ‘hope tempered by scepticism’. This could be seen by his statement just after the Reagan-G Moscow summit that the Cold War was not over – there were still many issues to discuss.
Bush in his inaugural stated that he was open to good relations with Moscow but he was cautious
Annouced a three month review of international issues – very different to the kind of diplomacy that Reagan espoused. – Press believed he was wasting time.
His Secretary of State James Baker only visited Moscow in May 1989 five months after Bush’s election – Brent Scowcroft (NSA) stated that the cold war was not over – success in the third world due to Soviet failure of policies rather than a general change od attitude (sic!).
Review stated that Gorbachev was best person to work with but future uncertain, could G stabilise and improve the Soviet economy?
G continues to lead PR effort – statements thaty Soviets would make unilateral cuts in nuclear weapons arsenal.
Bush May 1989 – agrees to a 10% cut in NATO troops.
Important Bush speech in May 1989 – open skies proposal – open trade between the two countries – objective to welcome the Soviet Union back into the world order – 9important speech.
Bush policy to test Gorbachev and hold him to his word regarding his promises. Discussions from mid-1989 regarding a summit, Soviet by then had agreed to delink Start to SDI, dismantle Krasnoyarsk radar.a
December 1989 summit in Malta – no concrete agreements but discussions of arms, trade and regional problems – by this time Eastern Europe had toppled its Communist regimes – Cold War seemed to be over for good. So Bush had moved towards a more trusting position to Gorbachev as he had kept to his word.
After this breakthrough regarding Bush’s trust of Gorbachev, Bush moved to actively support Gorbachev as he was worried that the quick pace of change in Eastern Europe and at home could take Gorbachev out of power – and G seemed to be the best person to work with in Soviet Union
Bush took a calm, pragmatic position during the momentous events at the turn of the 1980s/1990s. As Eastern Europe freed itself from Communist rule Bush wasn’t triumphalist, did not make grandiose statements. He did not attack Gorbachev and the Soviet Union, they just watched as things occurred.
German reunification – did not provoke during the move towards reunification of Germany which occurred in late 1990. After the wall fell Bush, whilst supporting Unification of East and West Germany was careful to work with Gorbachev during the process as he did not want to increase G’s domestic problems.
After the fall of the wall Bush continued to support Gorbachev but was more and more sure that Yeltsin would replace Gorbachev – summit in May-June 1990
At the end of 1990 with Gorbachev’s position in the USSR under attack – Bush promised to give the USSR food aid to ease the problems regarding the loss of Eastern Europe
Good relations between the two leaders in 1991 as well with Gorbachev invited to the G-7 summit in July 1991 – Start I signed - The treaty barred its signatories from deploying more than 6,000 nuclear warheads atop a total of 1,600 ICBMs, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and bombers. So the working relationship from a shaky start moved to a good working relationship.
So now let’s look at the events which really saw the collapse of Soviet power and eventually to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Firstly let’s look at the end of Communism in Eastern Europe. We have seen how Gorbachev was unwilling to use force in Eastern Europe and was basically supportive of perestroika and glasnost in Eastern Europe, to match his beliefs in the Soviet Union. This was characterised by the Sinatra Doctrine that countries could go their own way.
Communist regimes in the regime were already weak before the coming to power of Gorbachev. There was a lack of popular support for Communism in the region and this had in general been the case since the imposition of Communism in 1945. Especially in Poland and in Romania but also in other Eastern European countries the Red Army had been the key force which had allowed the existence of Communism in the region. In addition in the region, apart from maybe Czechoslovakia, communism had few local roots. Indeed in the case of Poland and hungary most of the two countries identities had been based on opposition to socialism (in the inter-war period).
In addition the reforms in the region that Soviet supported local communists had introduced since 1945 had failed to deliver the same levels of wealth, health, education and social provision that had been provided in the West (escaping from East Berlin to West Berlin in the 1950s).
Gorbachev’s lack of will to intervene + lack of public support + G’s support for reform movements in the countries added up to a potent cocktail which brought about the speedy end of Communism in the region
As mentioned here – Gorbachev supported reform in countries, reformers started to move against Communism itself. IN late 1989 when the crisis hit its peak G refused to use aggressive intervention – would risk his good reputation in the West. Communist regimes lack of legitimacy from the public and lack of power – lack of support from Moscow – Red Army. G blamed for the loss of Eastern Europe.
So let’s look at the events across a number of countries – First of all let’s look at the situation in Poland and Hungary. Poland, centre in the 1980s of the most firm anti-communist movement with Solidarity, repressed during Martial law (30 year anniversary was this week). Solidarity continues underground, Poland heavily indebted to the West. Jaruzelski reforms – decentralisation of decision making 1987 and moves towards multi-candidate elections (referendum planned 1988). Strikes across the country – February 1989 round table talks – Solidarity, Church and the Communists. Solidarity legalised – June 1989 first almost free elections in the Communist bloc. Communists beaten soundly – non-communist prime minister appointed – Tadeusz Mazowiecki. Non-communist government in the Warsaw pact. Gorbachev accepts these moves without problems- Poland freed.
Hungary – you remember there had been liberalisation in the 1970s and early 1980s in Hungary, decentralisation etc, provate ownership in some areas. Hungary continued to be in debt. Multi-candidate elections 1983, some independent candidates 1985. Opposition groups tolerated. Imre Nagy reburied June 1989, free parliamentary elections in early 1990. Gorbachev again accepts this
East Germany – moves towards the fall of the Berlin wall – thousands of East Germans move to West Germany in mid-1989 as Hungary opens its borders with Austria. East Germany resistant to reform but way less income in the East compared to the West – 10,000 cross the border in September 1989.
Gorbachev to Berlin October 1989 – due to instability – worries about a crackdown. States that Hoenecker (communist leader) should respond to public opinion – would be now intervention. Demonstrations across the country against the Communists – reforms – H goes and November 9 – freedom to travel agreed. Opening of the wall and discussions of German reunification.
Bulgaria affected by the instability – Todor Zhivkov Soviet loyalist since the 1960s kicked out of power in November 1989 by moderate Communists in Bulgaria. Free elections were run and contested in June 1990 – negotiated revolution.
Czechoslovakia – Hard line government under Husak in cz. G tries to get him to reform – cabinet resigns 24 November – mass demonstrations – general strike 27 November – end of Communism 29 November. By the end of 1989 most famous dissident Vaclav Havel was president.
Only country with violence was Romania – détente foreign policy under ceaucescu, but repressive policy at home. Victimised Hungairan minority. December 1989 – West turns against Ceacescu – as do Gorbachev, the army and Communists in Romania – repression by Romanian security police, violence – eventually the army captured and executed him on 25 December 1989.
Communism within the space of 1 year had been wiped from the face of Eastern Europe – although ex-communists important in the new order
So with the fall of the Berlin wall, the issue of German reunification was opened up once more. We remember from 1945-1960 there were intense discussions and disagreements over German reunification with both sides on East and West wanting different things. From 1961 the issue had been calmed by the Berlin wall but during the Ostpolitik policy Willy Brandt had talked of the self-determination of the Germany people and détente policies from the West had been partly aimed at bringing about the reunification of Germany.
Opening of the Berlin wall brought the issue back to the surface again
Evem before the opening of the wall nationalist opinion in West Germany had sought reunification, West German Basic law made it easy for East German provinces to accede to West Germany.
But the issue was a difficult one due to the strategic position of Germany, its size and historic importance – would not be that simple – Britain and France worried about the return of a strong, reunited Germany.
Confusion initially after the fall of the wall – discussion over reunification but some voices in the East wanted to reform their own country. Left West Germans fear a return of German nationalism after unification.
But clear popular support for unification – 70% of West Germans in favour of it, East German state was collapsing – thousands and thousands leaving the country.
Bush sought the reunification of Germany – would be achieved on Western terms – strong bargaining position
Kohl also strongly supports reunification – Late November 1989 Kohl puts forward a ten point plan regarding this policy.
Britain and France have doubts – both countries worry about the dominance of Germany in a new unified Europe – Mitterand in December 1989 talks to G in Moscow about the issue – Moscow also worried.
Thatcher moves away from this worried stance mainly because she didn’t really want European integration and she felt a strong Germany would be a challenge to this principle – so Thatcher and Mitterand don’t really work together.
Gorbachev was also worried by the prospect of German reunification – confused policy at times saying it was the right thing, in other occassions expressiing his doubts.
Collapse of effective governence in East Germany by the end of 1989, currency problems, opposition groups formed, January 1990 stasi dissolved. Unification only a matter of time – elections in the country set for March 1990.
But issues East German leader Hans Modrow discussed the idea of a neutralised Germany – worries West Germany – they wanted to be member of NATO, G support four power talks – settlement dictated on West Germany – Kohl worries.
But end of January 1990 G suggests unification was possible, due to E German collapse, Soviet economic problems and to appease the West. West German proposal regarding NATO membership but no troops in the Eastern provinces.
Speed of events – February 1990 Kohl talks of monetary union of East and West. Secretary of State Feb 1990 – 2+ four talks – 2 Germanys deal with internal issues, four occupying powers deal with the international situation. Allows all powers a say. West Germans propose financial aid to the Soviet Union for unification.
March 1990 Christian Democrats 48% of vote in elections – vote for reunification – april 1990 further moves towards unification
Two plus four talks – across 1990 three western powers want Germany to be part of NATO with East Germany a part of it – Soviets unsure – May 1990 – Moscow wants Germany to be neutralised.
Kohl offers considerable economic aid to the Soviets to make up for the loss of East Germany – troop reductions too – Gorbachev convinced that E Germany can enter NATO.
July 1990 monetary union – stablises East Germany – NATO discussions – talk more of cooperation with Moscow instead of confrontation, troop reductions East Germany.
Series of agreements August-October 1990 – German financial aid to Soviets – get the Red Army out of East Germany. Treaties of friendship and border treaties Poland-Germany.
September – no nuclear weapons to Germany, Germany into NATO, end of occupation.
3 October unification
Complex process but Unification achieved October 1990 – better for the West than East – however G had got concessions too. New megapower in Europe again.
So Germany had been unified, Eastern Europe had cast off Communism. What would happen to the Soviet Union after all of that? Transformation of domestic and foreign policy under Gorbachev. West sees him as rational, enlightened, liberaliser, end of the Cold War. Many in Soviet Union see him as abandoning Communism, supporting free enterprise – uncertainty which this brings.
Also argument that Cohesion affected by political policies, possibilities of national independence movements in the Soviet Union.
Loss of Eastern Europe – worries about Soviet Union’s security
Gorbachev seemed to be behind all of this – hard to see anyone else bringing the Soviet Union to the state that it had got to.
Combination of two things brings about the fall of the Soviet Union – problems of economic reform and the end of Nationalism.
Gorbachev’s economic reforms had not been as successful as he had liked – economic reforms had been slow and had resulted in a decline in manufacturing output.
Poor showing of the Soviet economy was added to by nationalism – which combined with the economic problems made a good case for independence
G doesn’t know how to deal with the problem of nationalism – Law of nationalities January 1990 – gave republics the right to secede – but confusing policy – as he sent Red Army into Lithuania in March 1990 after it had declared independence. Moves for independence in the Baltic rtepublics since 1988. Arrest of young Lithuanians who resisted conscription into the Red Army, Lithuanian National Guard disarmed (Worries in the US that G would use a strong-arm approach)
G eventually decides not to use force again here
Boris Yeltsin elected leader of Russian Federation – rival of Gorbachev. Resigned from the Communist Party, 12 June asserted the Russian Federation’s right to Sovereignty. Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus also press for autonomy from Moscow. The republic issue was now a major problem for Gorbachev.
End of 1990 G beleaguered – brings hardliners back into Politburo – shevardnadze resigns.
Lithuania early 1991 ending of suspension of Lithuanian independence – Red Army once more to the Lithuanian capital – G pulls back from more violence – Union treaty March 1991 – more autonomy to the republics
Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Georgia declare independence – Yeltsin elected Russian President June 1991
Crisis hits – Yeltsin holds out against them, Gorbachev freed after three days and the coup collapses. Abolition of the KGB and the suspension of the Communist party.
Yeltsin gains out of these events – the centre was demoralised – Commonwealth of Independent States formed – eleven republics, loose confederation
Some states independent, Ukraine August 24 1991 – end of Soviet Union
Mass of new states created as aresult – Baltics, Caucusus and Central Asia.
So let’s look quickly at explaining the end of the Cold War. Three general explanations have been put forward:
1)Right-wingers in the US and realist thinkers always argue the Cold War was a victory for the West. They see the end of the Cold war due to Reagan’s aggressive policies – arms spending and supporting freedom fighters across the world = faced disintegration if it did not attempt radical change. Gorbachev adopted new thinking as he was forced to by Reagan goes the argument.
A linked argument to this one is one which suggests that US policies of détente were important in opening up the Eastern bloc to liberal ideas – these ideas, so the argument goes, gave people in the East a desire for liberalism and greater openness. A classic example of this were the Helsinki Accords (the height of détente) which allowed Eastern dissident groups greater freedom to operate. One of these, Solidarity presented the Communist with their greatest challenge yet in 1980/81 in Poland.
A second major reason which has been argued is the long-term weaknesses of the Soviet Union – firstly regimes in the region (especially in Eastern Europe) suffered from a lack of popular legitimacy. Regimes in Eastern Europe had been imposed (almost exclusively) by the military might of the Red Army in 1945. Although there had been some advances as a result of communist rule (education for example), there was still the problem that regimes in the region had not been supported when they were implemented (obviously in Russia this is not true). In addition the corruption and careerism at the heart of socialist regimes was common knowledge in the general population in the East, sceptical of government, people don’t believe what the state says. With Glasnost and perestroika the argument goes forces were unleashed from the bottom which moved to overthrow the communist system. Need for change – glasnost opened this up.
The economy is also another important reason – central planning, concentration on heavy production, exploitation of agriculture, system could not meet the demand for modern consumer goods (stalinist system). Over the top bureaucracy, inefficiency and waste across the system. Housing and health care not provided well enough, stagnation in the 1970s.
Linked reason - Détente opened up Eastern European economies to the West, massive debt crises in the 1980s – helps create anti-regime feeling.
Finally Gorbachev’s policies are crucially important – one could say that despite all the other things above without Gorbachev the cold war would not have ended.
Gorbachev attempted to reform economically and politically. Attempt to reform the economy, believed a bit more market economy would bring more success and efficiency to the Soviet Union (China successful) however the economic reforms failed and brought further economic problems – loss of industrial production.
In the political field his reforms released pressures that were bubbling under the surface, freedom brought opposition from nationalist groups in the Soviet Union and democratic forces in East Europe. Loss of control of reform brings about downfall.
All of the above could be used in an argument